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Marches against Colombian rebel group held across world
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13:28, February 05, 2008

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Millions of Colombians wearing white T-shirts marched Monday to protest against Colombia's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), demanding the group release 700 hostages and stop kidnapping.

The march brought to a halt Colombia's capital Bogota, and regional heavyweight cities Cali in the southwest, Medellin in the northwest and Cartagena in the north.

Outside Colombia, marches and protests were also organized in Uruguay, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, the United States, Venezuela and other countries.

The government described he marches as a spontaneous event, but there were different views about the marches. Astrid Betancourt, sister of Colombia's most famous hostage Ingrid Betancourt, said Monday that the anti-rebel march in Colombia and around the world will only stir rage and destruction in Colombia.

"Honestly, we do not understand what this march is for, but we do know that it will stir rage and destruction in Colombia," Astrid told Colombia's La W radio.

Opposition figures said the government organized the march, noting that Colombian embassies and consulates around the world supported the march.

The Colombian government has stepped up media offensive since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suggested that the FARC be viewed as belligerents rather than terrorists.

The status of belligerent would mean that FARC fighters would be treated as prisoners of war rather than criminals, but would have to release their hostages to achieve this status.

On Saturday, FARC announced that it would soon release three former legislators who are in poor health, as another gesture of gratitude to Chavez for achieving a humanitarian accord.

Chavez was fired from his role of mediator between FARC and the government in November, after Uribe accused him of breaking protocol.

FARC have 43 high-profile hostages that they seek to exchange for political concessions, including Ingrid Betancourt, who also has French citizenship and was campaigning for Colombia's presidency when she was kidnapped. The rebel group currently holds more than 700 hostages for ransom.

Source: Xinhua

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